Feedback: It’s all in the Transmission

There are dozens of feedback models out there for leaders today (SBI, Pendleton, SCARF, CORE, BIFF, STAR, BEER, AID to name a few). Each one of these models can be learned in about 5 minutes. They’re simple and effective, and give leaders a repeatable framework to use. 

Here’s the thing though, the model doesn’t really matter. Your transmission does.

I see it all the time. Clients who ‘know how to give feedback’ but really, all they know is the order in which they should say things in. It’s formulaic. They’re experts in the cognitive process, how the feedback model works, why it’s so effective.They could probably teach a master class in it. 

And yet they’re terrible at giving feedback. 

Feedback is 99% about the transmission. The texture of your voice. Your pace. The depth of your breath. The shape your body takes when you get to the hard part (the actual feedback). These are all nervous system habits that have been running for years. So how do you get better at this part? There are two ways. 

First, get feedback about how you give feedback. The people you’re giving feedback to might not be the best ones to give you feedback, especially if they work for you. Like it or not, they’ll probably not give you the truth about your transmission. 

Instead, get feedback from someone who isn’t your direct report or whose job isn’t in jeopardy if they tell you the truth. Peers or even your partner or your children are great for this. They won’t pull any punches. 

Start by showing them how you give feedback. (set the scene for them briefly first). Then ask them to tell you how you did. They’ll have something for you almost certainly. If your peers, your partner and your children aren’t willing to give you truthful, valuable feedback, you might have a bigger problem. 

The second way is to get present and aware enough to be able to feel what’s going on for the person you’re giving feedback to. Are they breathing deeply? Do they feel open? How receptive do they feel to your transmission? If you make a change to your voice or body language, do they feel more or less open? You could tune your transmission like this forever. 

Feedback is one of the most important and yet least practiced forms of leadership. So spend a lot more of your effort working on your transmission and a lot less on getting the model right.